Sou. Bapt.Ethics Prof. Breaks w/ Just War Theory
As reported in Associated Baptist Press, Southern Baptist ethicist David P. Gushee has broken with the Just War Tradition–at least to some degree. Gushee is Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy and Director of the Carl Henry Center for Christian Leadership at Union University in Jackson, TN. In June, he had strong criticisms of the war in Iraq from a Just War standpoint.
But Gushee no longer thinks that Christian ministers and leaders, like himself, need to be spending the majority of their time and energy wondering if war X is morally justified.
Rather, returning to the center of our faith in Jesus Christ, Gushee affirms that Christian churches are to be communities of peace, working to make peace in the world.
I have known Dave Gushee since 1994 and this both does and doesn’t constitute a major change for him. He has never been pro-war and has always been in favor of just peacemaking practices. But Gushee, perhaps because of his deep studies of the Holocaust, had always been a strong defender of JWT–and had advocated armed interventions to stop genocides in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Darfur in the Sudan. To say that the church’s primary ethical responsibility in this area is to become communities of peace is a different emphasis. I still have to ask Dave if he now believes all Christians should refrain from military service and become conscientious objectors–as would seem to be the conclusion of this development.
This development also fits with Dave’s strong stand as part of the Religious Campaign Against Torture which aims to stop all torture, beginning with that practiced by Americans, including closing the Gitmo gulag and the secret prisons in Eastern Europe. Dave defended this campaign even in the conservative Christianity Today.
Now, how far does this change give hope for reform within the Southern Baptist Convention? It’s hard to say. Several years back, Dave worked with the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on biomedical issues, but the Commission’s Exec. Director, Richard Land, found Dave too sympathetic with “liberal” perspectives on economic, environmental, and racial justice–and too outspoken in defense of the full equality of women and men. Since refusing to sign the 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith & Message, Dave has not been courted by the SBC’s inner circles. But, unlike myself and others, he has remained in the SBC instead of moving to another Baptist group, and teaches at a school known for having a conservative understanding of Baptist faith and life. Does this mean a new openess to peacemaking in the SBC, or will this result in Gushee’s further marginalization? Only time will tell.
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